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Shipmate, Father, Coach: GW Sailor Gives Back on the Gridiron

Shipmate, Father, Coach: GW Sailor Gives Back on the Gridiron

Story by PO3 Kristen C Yarber on 01/14/2019

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Jan. 2, 2019) No matter their job, every Sailor has many responsibilities. Between being technical experts in their rate and mastering shipboard qualifications and requirements, most find themselves very busy. However, this tight schedule does not hinder one Sailor from volunteering during his off-duty hours.

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Patrick Neal, the Web Enabling Safety System (WESS) coordinator for the safety department onboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), is a volunteer assistant coach for his sons’ middle school football team at Oscar Smith Middle School in Chesapeake, Virginia.

“This is my first year as a volunteer coach for the team,” said Neal. “I was taking my two boys to summer conditioning and told the head coach that I’m here to help if you need it.”

Neal continued to assist with summer conditioning, and eventually, the school’s principal asked if he wanted to be a football coach. He agreed and filled out an application for a coaching position.

“We have football practice Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and games on Wednesday,” said Neal. “I’m the assistant defensive coach, so I always bring the boys out for stretching and prepping before the game, getting them mentally and physically prepared. I hype them up and get them ready, but the last words out of my mouth before the national anthem is, let’s have fun and play football.'”

Neal’s two sons, Keistan, 13, and Kaleb, 12, play for the Oscar Smith Tigers, who have been undefeated for three years. He hopes to keep up the winning streak this year.

“We’re 6-0 this year,” said Neal. “We’re going for our fourth year undefeated.”

Despite his love of the sport, Neal realizes his volunteer position is more than just coaching football.

“My favorite part about it is being involved with the kids, and letting them know that it’s bigger than football,” said Neal. “Not everyone’s going to go to college and be a pro, but they can take whatever they learn on the football field and know that whenever they start something, they don’t quit.”

In addition to instilling values in the players, Neal also stresses the importance of grades, education, and sportsmanship.

“You get a good education, and you’re good at football, who knows what doors will open up for you later on,” said Neal.
Neal carries this mentorship attitude with him back to the ship as well.

“Junior Sailors look up to him,” said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Launch/Recovery (Equipment) McKenzie Rhymer, the departmental leading chief petty officer for George Washington’s safety department.
“They ask him any questions they may have.”

Although volunteering off-duty may require extra effort, Neal still exhibits a positive work ethic while on the ship.

“He takes care of WESS and any incident reports,” said Rhymer. “He’s our departmental motorcycle representative as well.”

Neal leaves for his first shore duty orders next January. Until then, he plans to continue leading by example for both his football players and Sailors.

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